In this series on ‘abiding,’ each post will be framed as an email correspondence to a friend who is seeking to get ‘more’ out of his or her faith. My hope is that by exploring this topic as a conversation, you will resonate with the message as deeply as if it were a letter addressed to you.
To: Friend Seeking More from Faith
From: Doug Nuenke
Subject: “Trapped in a Throwback”
Thanks so much for your response. I’m glad I’m not alone in the drive to compete for acceptance and worth. Though this impulse is imbedded in human nature, the central compulsion of our lives doesn’t have to be rooted in insecurity and fear. Faith in Jesus counteracts this tendency, leading us to abide in Christ rather than strive to impress him.
But for some reason, a lot of Christians struggle to embrace this reality. For many, the gospel is reduced to a “ticket to heaven,” a form of salvation that’s relevant only after we die. What an incomplete view of Jesus’ saving work! This mindset is stuck in the Old Testament mode of gaining access to God. It makes me wonder if we are still living “back then”, to some degree?
Old Testament saints like Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah needed to go somewhere and do something to connect with the God of Israel. The Spirit rested on some of them for a season, but His closeness was not guaranteed. God was always “over there” and to connect with Him they had to perform a ritual of some kind or make a sacrifice.
I’ve tried to live under a similar set of rules in certain seasons of my life – living a life fearing God and trying to do good things for God. As you’ve pointed out, that kind of life can be overwhelming and lead toward exhaustion and anything but a flourishing life.
But in the gospel, our access to God and to His Son Jesus has changed completely. To borrow the words of Andrew Murray, “The [Old Testament] law carries with it an inexorable do; the grace of God carries with it a blessing to believe—Christ will do it for you.”
This idea is echoed in 1 John 4:9:
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Isn’t that good news? As we experience the love of God, we are compelled not to activity for God, but to relationship with him. It’s a completely different mindset! The death and resurrection of Jesus made us right with God, which means his love and acceptance is no longer place-bound or dependent on obedience to a set of laws. Old Testament spirituality is history, providing only a context for the new reality of the good news of Jesus.
Are you still living like an “Old Testament Christian?” Are you trapped in a throwback version of faith, rather than the present-day reality of how we can connect to Christ? I believe that many of us do this much of the time. But the gospel was not meant to be only a reprieve from the grave. It was meant to offer an avenue to relationship that changes everything and invites us into fullness of life.
We access this zoe life by abiding in Christ, yielding to the work that has already been done on our behalf. We abide in Him by soaking in His presence throughout the day, turning our attention toward Him, remembering that He loves us and promises to be with us always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Only the rhythm of leaning into his constant presence will change our mindset from Old Testament thinking to our New Testament inheritance. In Christ, we can receive the inflow of life God has for us NOW.
Until next time,